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Pelete Bite Wrapper, Pelete Bite

This is a Pelete bite wrapper. It is dated 1930s and we acquired it in 1988. Its medium is cotton and its technique is factory-woven plain weave, withdrawn-thread work. It is a part of the Textiles department.

The island group occupied by the Kalabari people is located in the Niger River delta. This strategic position brought them into contact with traders and travelers from many African and non-African cultures over a period of centuries. Their dress traditions are marked by an eclectic and cosmopolitan combination of cultural references. [1]
Cut-thread cloth takes imported Indian cotton madras as a starting point. But the subtractive process by which it becomes pelete bite transforms the finished product into a textile that is distinctively Kalabari. Beginning with simple stripes, plaids, or checks, the women selectively remove threads from the fabric by picking them up with a needle, cutting them with a razor blade, and pulling them from the weave. Often the lightest and brightest threads are removed, leaving a striking dark geometric design on a lighter checked ground. [2]

[1] M. Catherine Daly, Joanne B. Eicher, and Tonye V. Erekosima, “Male and Female Artistry in Kalabari Dress,” African Arts 19, no. 3 (May 1986): 48.
[2] Joanne B. Eicher, “A Ping-Pong Example of Cultural Authentication and Kalabari Cut-Thread Cloth” in Appropriation, Acculturation, Transformation: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, October 7–9, 2004: paper 439.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Making is Un-doing.

It is credited Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund.

  • Chalice Cover (Italy)
  • linen.
  • Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf in memory of his mother, Adeline Emma....
  • 1962-50-131
  • Chalice Cover (Italy)
  • linen.
  • Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf in memory of his mother, Adeline Emma....
  • 1962-50-201

Our curators have highlighted 6 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Textile, Finesse: Circle
  • viscose/polyester gauze.
  • Gift of Evan Snyderman and Zesty Meyers of R 20th Century and museum purchase....
  • 2011-36-2
  • Sample Book (India)
  • leather, paper, silk, cotton, linen.
  • Gift of Mrs. Samuel S. Walker.
  • 1936-46-1

Its dimensions are

Warp x Weft (weft selvedge to selvedge): 363 x 87 cm (11 ft. 10 15/16 in. x 34 1/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Pelete Bite Wrapper, Pelete Bite; Nigeria; cotton; Warp x Weft (weft selvedge to selvedge): 363 x 87 cm (11 ft. 10 15/16 in. x 34 1/4 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 1988-56-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibitions Esperanza Spalding Selects and David Adjaye Selects: Works from the Permanent Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Pelete Bite Wrapper, Pelete Bite |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=2 February 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>